BY NTIENSE WILLIAMS.
One sports federation, the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF) out of the 31 sports federations in Nigeria must conduct its elections using its illegal constitution! This was the submission of Tunde Popoola, Secretary General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee during the aborted Rugby Federation election on June 13 at the National Stadium Abuja during the elections into all the 31 sporting federations in Nigeria.
One will wonder why the NOC Secretary General would want to use Rugby Federation as a guinea pig to experiment the conduct of the federation elections using a constitution.
The rugby federation alongside 30 other sports federations were listed for elections into their respective boards in Abuja using a guideline which was duly issued by the Ministry of Sports and the Nigeria Olympic Committee.
Meanwhile there was a caveat that any federation with an approved constitution by its stakeholders and which constitution does not suffer any illegality can be used in the place of the guidelines.
There were four federations with a constitution submitted to the Nigeria Olympic Committee. Three out of the four decided not to use their constitution, whilst one, Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) decided to use its constitution and did its election in Kano on the 12 June while another faction did theirs in Abuja on the 13 June using the guidelines.
Rugby stakeholders assembled on the 13 June like every other federation to conduct its election using the approved guidelines by the ministry of sports and the Nigeria Olympic Committee, but were prevailed upon by the NOC Secretary General, Tunde Popoola, who was an observer to use its constitution.
Majority of the rugby stakeholders objected and further informed him that there was no approved constitution, unfortunately he insisted that we must use the presented 2015 Constitution which was presented to him by the outgoing President, Edward Pam Fom. Eventually since they couldn’t have their way, Rugby’s election was postponed to a later date to be announced by the Ministry and NOC.
On the 22nd of June, the NOC Secretary General through his office sent all rugby stakeholders the said constitution through their email for consideration for the rescheduled election!
We wonder who is he working for, because he is not a rugby stakeholder and not the rugby federation’s secretary general who should be the one issuing such correspondences to its stakeholders! What is his interest in all these?
Background to the Constitution Crisis
The outgoing president had submitted a Rugby Constitution dated 2015 to the Nigeria Olympic Committee and the Rugby World Body as an approved Nigeria Rugby Football Federation Constitution.
However on further inquiry, it has been discovered that the purported constitution was never presented to members of the outgoing board of the NRFF or the Rugby stakeholders through its General Assembly for debate, amendment or adoption for that matter, as such it is not our valid constitution said one board member Hon. Mustafa Allah Dey.
Said he, “We have never seen the said 2015 NRFF constitution as board members neither have we approved it either!
Another board member Obum Dike collaborated this by explaining further that this purported constitution was never presented to the board members, but was sent out to the clubs and never approved by the general assembly which was held in January 2017.
This document was illegally and erroneously sent out to the NOC and rugby’s international body. Meanwhile the NOC and World Rugby have endorsed the constitution based on the false information given to them by the outgoing President that it was an approved constitution of the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation.
Now that everyone has known the truth about the purported constitution as not being a legally binding document why then is the NOC Secretary General Tunde Popoola insisting on Rugby Federation using this illegal constitution to do its election?
Why is the NOC refusing to endorse the election of the NBBF faction that held its election in Kano using its constitution and why did they also endorsed the other two federations that opted to use the Ministry of Sports guidelines when they also submitted an approved constitution?
Meanwhile in the purported constitution in article 31:1 on how elections will be conducted, the document gives the ministry of sports the powers to conduct the election using their guidelines as an alternative to the constitution!
I am instrumental to the formation of the Rugby Federation in 1998. We had an approved constitution dated 2000 which we used to do our first election at inception and this document was presented to the NOC, Ministry of Sports and our international body by then the International Rugby Board.
This document alongside other documents which was required gave us an accelerated admission as a full member of the world body in 2001.
Thereafter the said constitution was amended with a 2006 edition which was also adopted and deposited with the NOC and world body. Another attempt was made by the Concession Board to review it in 2009, but it didn’t scale through.
But for the inaugural election in 2000 where we used the constitution, we have thereafter always used the Ministry’s of Sports election guidelines to conduct our Federation election including the one that brought in this outgoing board in 2013 November.
It is true that there is need to administer sporting federations with the best practice which is using their constitution which have to be in line with the international body’s guidelines and the country’s sports statutes. However, we should not get into illegality to administer best practice. In this case if the rugby stakeholders and even the board did not approve the said document then such document is a nullity!
What we see there is that the outgoing President disenfranchised most rugby stakeholders by operating a divide and rule administration, as can be seen with his board members disowning him. I’m told he operated with only 3 board members out of 13-member board and there was no board meeting since 2014 – 2017 which is an aberration.
He took away the secretariat from the Secretary General to his home in Jos. He then became the sole administrator, President, Treasurer, Financial Secretary and even the Disciplinary Committee Chairman. Some clubs were disqualified and subsequently not listed in his constitution thus cannot vote if we were to even consider such illegal document!
Best practice worldwide for sports and Nigeria in particular ensures 5 stratus of administration namely clubs, States, Federation, Continental and World bodies respectively.
Thus you can’t have clubs voting for a Federation President but State Rugby Association Chairmen which is what is on the Ministry’s election guidelines prescribed.
We therefore will like to kindly call on the Honourable Minister and the Nigeria Olympic Committee President to kindly prevail on the NOC Secretary General from pushing rugby into more problems with his insistence on the use of an illegal document to conduct our election.